On Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the final cases of the term, which began last October and is expected to end in late June after high-profile rulings on gay marriage, affirmative action and the Voting Rights Act.
Audio from Wednesday's arguments will be available at week's end at the court's website, but that's a relatively new development at an institution that has historically been somewhat shuttered from public view.
The court has been releasing audio during the same week as arguments only since 2010. Before that, audio from one term generally wasn't available until the beginning of the next term. But the court has been recording its arguments for nearly 60 years, at first only for the use of the justices and their law clerks, and eventually also for researchers at the National Archives, who could hear — but couldn't duplicate — the tapes. As a result, until the 1990s, few in the public had ever heard recordings of the justices at work.
But as of just a few weeks ago, all of the archived historical audio — which dates back to 1955 — has been digitized, and almost all of those cases can now be heard and explored at an online archive called the Oyez Project.